Questioning open markups

When legalizing marijuana, will legislatures do a better job than initiative writers? Journalist German Lopez writes:

“Experts widely attributed the persistence of the commercial model to the fact that these states legalized through voter referendums. It’s perceived as much easier to convince voters that pot should be legalized and sold much in the same way as alcohol, while it may be tricky to sell voters on the idea that, for example, nonprofits should sell pot or the government should through a tightly regulated state-run monopoly.

“But many experts hoped that legislators, with more time to work out the nuances of drug policy, would be able to land on something that didn’t lead to for-profit entities selling marijuana.”

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Vermont’s Legislature, Lopez reports, doesn’t seem to have on its radar screen models suggested in the RAND report that would dampen the profit motive.

A word about legislation vs. initiative: We just celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Joint Committee on Taxation, which involved a paper by Bobby Shapiro pointing out that the shift (over the last 50 years) from (1) writing tax bills in a closed session of committee to (2) “open markups” where lobbyists are present coincides with deterioration of our tax system. Recalling that the Founders drafted the Constitution in totally secrecy, and looking at Vermont, I wonder how much of an advantage over initiatives legislation will provide. Legislators can operate more freely in secret – where the special interests are not present. Transparency is not an absolute good.

 

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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